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You've heard of Mercury retrograde (and dreaded every second of it), but Saturn return? That's another story. Even if you check your horoscope daily, know your Moon sign, Venus sign, and Mercury sign by heart, and celebrate every zodiac season like it's your birthday, this planetary event has probably still flown under your radar.
But before you go blaming yourself for astrological negligence, don't worry—if you’re still in your twenties, you haven’t even experienced a Saturn return yet. Put simply, the planet Saturn takes approximately 29 years to move through all of the zodiac, so this means that your Saturn return can really only take place up to three times over the course of your life: the first when you’re 29 or 30, the second around age 60, and one last time in your 90s.
Your Saturn returns are huge, often difficult periods in your life. If you’re under 30, get ready. And if you’re over 30, well… after you’ve learned more about this phenomenon, everything that happened in your late 20s and early 30s will make a lot more sense. Saturn return is not necessarily cause for panic or concern–don’t let this get in the way of your “thirty, flirty, and thriving” era–but it's certainly worth understanding.
Meet the experts:
Linda Joyce is a professional astrologer and author of The Star Within.
Jessica Lanyadoo is a humanistic astrologer and author of Astrology for Real Relationships: Understanding You, Me, and How We All Get Along.
Okay, so what exactly is a Saturn return?
Quick astro lesson: A "return" is when a planet returns to the exact position it was in the sky when you were born, and every planet has one, explains Linda Joyce, professional astrologer and author of The Star Within. "Returns mark the closing of one cycle and the beginning of another," she says.
Your Saturn return is when the planet Saturn returns to the exact degree of the same sign it was in when you were born. This is a monumental shift, and the effects of your Saturn return can be felt for upwards of two to three years. So that explains why you feel like your entire life is about to change the second you blow out those candles on your 30th birthday.
According to Joyce, your Saturn return is a time of maturity, “when fun and games have to give way to a greater vision of yourself and life.” In a way, too, your first Saturn return is the first time you’re truly stepping into the world–it's a time when you pick up that metaphorical megaphone and announce who you are, how you feel about yourself, and where you belong, says Jessica Lanyadoo, humanistic astrologer and author of Astrology for Real Relationships: Understanding You, Me, and How We All Get Along.
“Closer to 60 is the second Saturn return, and it is equally as important,” Lanyadoo explains. “This is where we have the closure of our adult cycle and we step into our senior cycle. Our priorities change… we’re meant to have built so much of what we want and from there we’re meant to build our internal life in a whole new way.”
And if you’re lucky enough to make it to your third and final Saturn return? In some ways, you're preparing for a final stage of life. Lanyadoo views this transit as a confrontation with our individual mortality. Like all Saturn returns, it can be “quite an existential journey,” she says–a true confrontation with the human condition.
When Saturn returns, it's all about slowing down to self-reflect. That helps you grow up and see life for what it is, not what you want it to be. "Saturn is the truth—the bare truth—but it’s something you can count on," Joyce says. "It won’t lie to you to make you feel better, but it will guide and help you learn your lesson if you’re willing to do the work."
When does a Saturn return actually start, and how long does it last?
If you were planning to live it up the last few years of your twenties, sorry, but think again. You feel each Saturn return at least two years before it happens, according to Joyce. (Just another joy of aging, right?) For a more exact approximation of when this phenomenon will affect you, you can use a Saturn return calculator.
But hey, that doesn't mean you'll have three relentlessly stressful years. "The effects slowly fade away as you take charge of your life," she adds. So whatever's on your to-do list, move it to your done list. Otherwise, you're in for a rude awakening. Because your Saturn return only lasts two to three years, ask yourself what you want to accomplish in that time, and then, start making moves.
How does your natal chart impact your Saturn return?
Not to add another layer of confusion, but let it be known that each person’s Saturn return is going to be entirely unique, and largely dependent on their natal chart. Lanyadoo notes that your Saturn return is an incredibly personal time, and your natal chart certainly plays a part in that.
Your natal chart can impact your romantic relationships, too:
"When we are going through transits to our birth chart there's an element of that domino effect…whatever Saturn is doing in your birth chart, it starts this pattern where it lights up your [entire] chart, for better or for worse," she says.
For specifics on how your Saturn return is going to impact you, you’ll want to speak to a trusted astrologer. For all intents and purposes, however, read on for what to expect from your Saturn return, and how to cope with the hand it deals you.
What should you expect from your Saturn return?
In your late twenties, you often feel like you’re running out of time. Society has conditioned you to think that you need to finish school, find a forever job, and get married–all when you’re still in a child-like place in your life. “The [first] Saturn return marks the opening of adulthood, which means that your twenties is the adult phase of your childhood and the thirties are the youth of your adulthood,” Lanyadoo explains.
“In the two years leading up to the Saturn return, you start to feel a sense of panic,” Lanyadoo continues. “Friendships and community relationships start to fall apart, especially if you have built up community and relationships as a reaction to who you were as a teenager, your family’s origin, or childhood in general.”
While this can be daunting, and it will come with its fair share of trials and tribulations, your Saturn return can actually be quite a beautiful time as well.
“Oftentimes, we have a lot to lose during the Saturn return… but it’s well worth it because we’re closing out our childhood and opening up to the first truly adult cycle of our development,” Lanyadoo says. “You have to make choices, you have to let certain things go… [Saturn] is confronting you with very real, very deep stuff that you need to be working on. The thing we are meant to do is show up for the work and act with integrity for ourselves.”
According to Joyce, Saturn is the teacher that wants you to pass their class... but only if you've done all your homework and aced your final. If you don’t, you fail. "You don’t get praise for what you’ve done right," Joyce adds. "Saturn's mission is to point out what’s not working and why." The less you listen to what Saturn is showing you, the greater the consequences of your "wrong" choices. It's like a hangover: The older you get without adjusting your ways, the worse it hits you.
If you do listen to your Saturn return, however, "a new awareness gradually seeps into your consciousness until you have an 'aha' moment," Joyce says. Basically, you'll have a moment of clarity in which you'll realize, "If I want to be successful, I have to commit to accomplishing X, Y, Z."
How should you deal with a Saturn return?
Your twenties are meant to be a time of exploration, and when your Saturn return comes, it begins to solidify everything that has been hanging in the balance while you figure out who you really are. Maybe you're comfortable, but not exactly happy, in your relationship. Now's the time to be real with yourself—and your partner—so you can both start looking for something better.
Sounds rough, but "a Saturn return doesn’t have to be a difficult time, if you embrace it and listen to what is asked of you," says Joyce. "If you don’t, then life begins to become challenging." (Ahem, more challenging.)
You know how a party can go from being super fun to awkward AF if you stay there too long? Suddenly, everyone's gone, and you're stuck in a weirdly deep convo with the host and another rando who couldn't take the hint.
That party is now your twenties, and it's time to GTFO. "What’s not working in your life becomes very obvious," she notes. For instance, if you're a commitment-phobe or your FOMO convinces you to stay out late on a Tuesday night, then that could begin to get in the way of scoring that raise or landing the job you want.
To make sure that doesn't happen, Joyce urges you to tune in during this time. "Saturn slows everything down because you need to see what has to be fixed," she explains. "If you don’t pay attention, you’ll face a crisis."
"Life becomes a series of lessons to learn," she explains. "If you’ve been learning them all along the way, then your Saturn return is a piece of cake...but if you’ve been avoiding responsibility and life itself, then your Saturn return can be painful."
Luckily, no matter how difficult it may be to take a brutally honest look at your life, you have the chance—at this astrological point—to turn things around. You might not get that opportunity again, so roll up those metaphorical sleeves and take your Saturn return seriously.
"Yes, it may take work, struggle, or sacrifice. After all, success requires you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and that’s what Saturn does," says Joyce.
Exactly which comfort zone that is depends on you. Your Saturn return can manifest itself in a ton of different ways, from a demanding task you must accomplish to a person who enlightens you. However the ringed planet shows up in your life, you'll leave the experience wiser and more capable of achieving whatever it is your soul desires.
Ultimately, Joyce says, "If you listen and learn from Saturn, you will begin to see it for what it is—your best friend." Even if you don't believe in the Saturn return, or any cosmic intervention for that matter, guess what? Nothing bad can happen from quitting behaviors that aren't serving you and intentionally chasing your goals.
So... bring it on, S.
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